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AUT’s Sport-Tech Innovations Propel New Zealand onto Global Stage

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In developing the technology and accelerating the nation’s economy, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) School of Sport and Recreation has launched its two cutting-edge sports tech inventions internationally. It marks a significant milestone in New Zealand’s foray into the global sports technology market. The licensing deals with American and Australian companies underscore AUT’s position as the leading university of technology in New Zealand and a world leader in sport and recreation research.

Image credits: aut.ac.nz

One of the pioneering inventions, Hawkin TruStrength (HTS), is an invention from a collaboration between Professor John Cronin, a renowned sports scientist at AUT and Kiwi Texas. Initially funded by Kiwi Texas for early prototype development, the project has recently partnered with the US sports tech company Hawkin Dynamics for commercialisation. HTS is a high-spec, portable device that revolutionises athlete training and rehabilitation by removing subjectivity and introducing a data-driven approach.

Designed by Prof Cronin, an expert in strength and conditioning and sports technology, TruStrength is a portable fixed dynamometer, roughly the size of a fist, capable of measuring pushing (compressive) and pulling (tensile) forces from 1 N (100 gm) to 10,000 N (1000 kg). This innovative tool provides quantitative accuracy to training and rehab processes, optimising patient outcomes and enabling previously hard-to-measure movements to be quantified.

“This technology aims to bring more quantitative accuracy to what professionals do and assist them in optimising patient outcomes,” said Prof Cronin. TruStrength also serves as a training tool, allowing even low-tech training aids like rubber-based resistance TheraBands to be attached to the dynamometer, producing objective data.

Prof Cronin explained that the idea for TruStrength originated on the SPRINZ campus in Auckland, where he collaborated with a PhD student seeking better isometric force measurements for high-performance athletes. This collaborative ethos is central to AUT’s approach. As Prof Cronin explains, “We’re a campus where industry and a university have come together. Our mantra is ask, answer, share.”

The second innovative technology is DynaSled. This breakthrough has been licensed to an Australian company. This wireless force-sensing device measures strength and leg imbalances, optimising athletic performance training and assessing sports injury risk.

Developed by AUT sports and exercise science researchers Dr Matt Brughelli, Dr Matt Cross, and High-Performance Sport New Zealand PhD graduate Dr Farhan Tinwala, the DynaSled project received early-stage funding from KiwiNet, a government initiative supporting the commercialisation of university research.

The DynaSled, equipped with a wireless force sensor, is a cutting-edge tool to assess force production during functional movements, including sprinting overground. This innovative technology evaluates overall force production and allows for determining leg asymmetries, a critical factor in preventing lower limb injuries.

Dr Brughelli emphasises DynaSled’s unique ability to determine the optimal loading for each athlete based on their individual goals. This capability sets it apart as a distinctive and valuable tool in sports technology, promising to revolutionise how athletes train and perform.

With support from AUT Ventures, the researchers collaborated with an Australian company to develop the commercial version of DynaSled. Swift Performance has now licensed the technology from AUT and will market the product worldwide. The company will also fund postgraduate research on the DynaSled with athletes, furthering the technology’s development and application.

Mark Fisher, founder and CEO of that Australian company partner, expressed optimism about collaborating with AUT researchers and the potential for long-term cooperation. “It is great working with industry-leading sports science researchers, and we hope to have a long-term partnership with AUT going forward to help commercialise the Sled technology,” Fisher said.

DynaSled and Hawkin TruStrength (HTS) technologies showcase AUT’s expertise in sports technology and demonstrate New Zealand’s global sports tech market potential. With AUT at the forefront, the future of sports technology appears more promising than ever, with continued innovation and advancements on the horizon.

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